Sometimes you choose love. Sometimes love chooses you.
So says Jeff Talmadge in a song from his seventh studio recording, Kind of Everything, which is his first CD for Berkalin Records. Sometimes you choose a career and sometimes a career chooses you.
Talmadge was a successful board certified Texas lawyer and award winning poet when he closed down his law office in 2003 and moved to the Atlanta, GA area for life as an itinerant singer songwriter.
A finalist or showcase artist in numerous competitions and festivals such as Kerrville and Falcon Ridge, his first three albums had been well received. With his fourth, Gravity, Grace and the Moon, Corazong Records in The Netherlands made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, and he was soon signed to the Dutch label and on tour in Europe.
The payoff after a decade of touring and songwriting is Kind of Everything, at once his most accessible and most challenging record. The sturdy rhythms, catchy melodies and fuller vocals invite the listener into an ambitious album that refuses to provide easy answers or comforting bromides.
Produced by Thomm Jutz (Nanci Griffith, Mary Gauthier, David Olney), Kind of Everything has 12 new songs and a David Olney cover. An all star collection of musicians adds support: Pat McKinerney (Nanci Griffith, John Prine, Malcolm Holcombe), Mark Fain (Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder), Fats Kaplin (Kane, Welch and Kaplin), Jon Vezner (Grammy winner), Ray Bonneville (Juno winner), Danny Flowers (Don Williams), Ed Pettersen (Song of America), Tim O’Brien (Grammy winner, Hot Rize), Pete Abbott (Average White Band, Freedy Johnson), Dennis Crouch (Robert Plant, Alison Krauss) and Lloyd Maines (Terry Hendix, Richard Buckner, Joe Ely). Co-writers on the project include Ed Pettersen, George Ensle, and Jaime Michaels.
“All that musical talent is subordinated to the stories that Talmadge has to tell,” says music writer and critic Geoff Himes (who also provides the liner notes). “Avoiding the narcissism of so many singer-songwriters, he sings about the people he encounters: homeless men, street musicians, barflies, ex-lovers, new lovers, new parents, divorcing couples, still married couples and returning soldiers.”
Talmadge’s journey began in Uvalde, Texas where he was born. His parents were public school teachers and administrators, and as they moved from one small Texas town to another, they always brought along the boxes of books that gave their son his hunger for words. He attended grammar school on the coastal plain of Texas, and graduated from Big Spring High School in west Texas. His older brother played a Gibson B-25 guitar and listened to Bob Dylan, so it was natural to get a guitar for Christmas in the 8th grade. By the time he left Texas for college, he was listening to the popular songwriters of the day, but it was fellow Texans Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Jerry Jeff Walker who had the most influence.
At Duke University he won the Academy of American Poets Award, then spent a couple of years in Washington as a press secretary to Congressman Bob Krueger from New Braunfels, Texas. That was followed by a law degree from the University of Texas and a job at the firm of famed Watergate prosecutor Leon Jaworski. In 1987, Talmadge set up his own practice in Austin, and two years later completed his MFA in writing from the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers in North Carolina. There was even a year and a half stint as a part time student at the Austin Theological Presbyterian Seminary in the late 90′s.
Kind of Everything will appeal to fans of the Texas songwriter tradition, the story-telling end of the Americana spectrum and Talmadge’s finger-picking style in the vein of Mississippi John Hurt or Merle Travis. A strong rhythm section supports the songs throughout the recording, but the addition of drums and electric guitars never takes the songs far from their acoustic roots.